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Hangman


Published 1964


A parable about the consequences of being a bystander to evil, from a disturbing poem by Maurice Ogden, read by Herschel Bernardi. Shadows and shifting geometric planes lend a Chirico-like quality to Julian's animation. Great musical score by Serge Hovey.

About the film, Steve Goldman writes: "Les Goldman was my father. Creating this film was one of the most important accomplishments of his life. He was inspired to make this film after hearing the poem 'Hangman' read on Pacifica Radio in Los Angeles by Les Claypool. My father almost single-handedly raised the money to make the film, with $100 and $200 donations from friends and associates. Paul Julian, Serge Hovey, and Herschel Bernardi were friends and colleagues of my father. He elicited their help in making the film. Though the poem on which the film is based has Holocaust parallels, the poet, Maurice Ogden, was actually writing about America during the McCarthy era. Ogden was an actor and writer who was denied work and persecuted by the House Un-American Activities Committee during the 1950's and early 60's for allegedly having been a member of the Communist Party many years earlier."


Run time 11m
Producer Les Goldman
Production Company Melrose Productions
Sponsor The Goldman Family & Martin J. Brown
Audio/Visual sound, color


Credits

Conceived and produced by Les Goldman
Directed by Paul Julian and Les Goldman
Design and color by Paul Julian

Reviews

Reviewer: jgruszynski - - August 18, 2010
Subject: Martin Niemöller by any other name
First they came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up,
because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me,
and by that time there was no one
left to speak up for me.
Reviewer: Hortence - - July 23, 2010
Subject: The Hangman and "The State"
Taxes? Is this the message that a reviewer would like us to believe that Ogden's poem and this animation addresses? How sad. This is exactly the kind of reasoning that this film warns us against.

Ogden makes it clear with the first line,"Into our town the Hangman came...", that the Hangman is not a citizen of this town. The film goes on to depict the shadow of the Hangman's gallows falling on the courthouse to convey a metaphorical message that lawful government is being eclipsed by fear and force. The idea that Ogden is suggesting that the state is oppressing it's citizens just isn't valid. Besides, taxes are determined by elected officials who work in exactly the type of building on which the shadow of the Hangman's gallows falls, so in fact, the opposite point can easily be made - lawful governance is actually the first victim of the Hangman when no one forces him to leave the courthouse lawn. After all, no one elected the Hangman to his job, but the citizens let him intimidate them into not voting to stop him.

The lesson I draw from "The Hangman" is to speak up and not give in to forces that coerce citizens to surrender their right to democratically police the group to which they belong. Ironically, a reviewer's attempt to diminish the power of that message by distorting it to serve instead a less democratic interpretation is behavior more suited to the Hangman himself. The only greater irony would be if none of rest of us who found such an interpretation to be cynical bothered to say so.

BTW, excellent film.
Reviewer: STOIC1987 - - March 9, 2009
Subject: Response to Hangman (1964)
This is quite an unusual piece of work that I find very interesting. This short work of cut-scene animation; accompanied by music that fits the theme of the story is very artistic and unique. The Hangman is undoubtedly a great piece of poetry. A poem drafted into a short film that expresses the disturbing and disgusting side of man's nature - distorting Justice and certainly portrays how other human beings "feed other humans" through a "death machine". And often times, minorities of a particular community find themselves the scapegoats of the society's wrath and its urge to fulfill its vindictive desires. This piece of work is very insightful and a lesson that portrays the cruel side of humanity.
Reviewer: Athanatos - - January 10, 2009
Subject: Not Just Death
This isn't about loving to feed others to a death machine, or even intrinsically about death machines. It's about acquiescence to the state when it begins to oppress others, in the hope that it will leave the acquiescent alone.

If the poem/movie were about capital punishment, then the first person killed would have done something that is generally agreed to be wrong. But what the Hangman does is go after classes of people, each of whom (until the very last) is not in the majority -- aliens, Jews, blacks, lenders.

The democratic majority can always persuade themselves that it's just others who are hanged in this order. Were it not hanging but imprisonment, military service, confiscations of property (fines, imminent domain seizures, taxes) the principle would be the same.
Reviewer: kerriganm - - June 21, 2008
Subject: Wonderful, creepy 60's animation- Haunting!
Great 60's beatnik-style animation, narration and score. Indictment of capital punishment, as I read it, but perhaps more widely of discrimination and violence.
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